Airole, Italia

   

After waiting patiently for two weeks, the van was finally given the “all clear” by the mechanic so we were absolutely thrilled to pick it up and immediately scheduled our trip to Hungary the following day.  But just as soon as we have finished loading the van and all our bags ready that we read the news about the blizzard hitting the country the same day we arrive – so  we had to painfully call off our departure once again! 

So it has been an endless waiting game for us:  biting nails, pulling hairs, just the right recipe for complete boredom!  And we must fight it and keep on enjoying life.  How?  Go on a Sightseeing Mode!

 AIROLE


(Airole is one of the 16 villages that comprise the Routes of Flavours and Colours of Italian Liguria.)

This is not the first time we are visiting this lovely village of Italy. We just love it so much that we have to have our Airolean fix every few months or….. to put it simply, every change of season!


After parking the car at the village entrance, this is what we noticed right away.  It’s not an ATM machine.  It’s a water dispenser where one can get water using his own container,  the principal aim of which is  to rid the planet of plastic bottles for a greener environment. The choice is between Chilled, Natural or Gaseous…..just press the button and voila!

As in any typical Italian town, city or village, a shrine of a saint is always around…this one is of the Virgin Mary.

 

Biblio is short for Biblioteca, library in Italian.

 


The village’s main piazza is also considered as the public Living Room as it is the place where everybody – locals and tourists alike – love to hang out with a glass of chilled beer, wine or apperitivo served by the open-air restaurant next door.

These are the high rise apartments surrounding the piazza 


The increasing population of Airole necessitates constant changing of house numbers which confuses the heck out of postmen.  Luckily, they have a neat way of doing it…

This snack bar has seemingly just recently been inaugurated as shown by the pot of flowers with golden ribbons, plus the brand-new looking signage.  Good luck to the owner!

 


What a view!

 


A couple of meters away, this orangey view just looks awesome!

 


And walking a bit further, this mimosa view is just mind-blowing!

I just can’t get enough of these mimosas!

 

 


The village in full view, with the railway tunnel peeking at the bottom.

This is Marco, the neighbourhood’s bandit dog, greeting us with a sniff!


A cellar well stacked of logs for the winter


Airole is where rocks and stone steps meet and join as one

 

We reached  the edge of the village where we came upon this  church guarding the cemetery

With a car park bordered by olive trees


And this is the entrance  to the departed’s final resting place..

 

 

And flowers to welcome the visitor

As well as reminder that Airole observes a green environment


We continued our sightseeing in the cemetery.  I couldn’t resist touching  the material of this tomb, wanting to make sure it is not a bathtub or something…


Tombs – vertical, horizontal….

 

 

 

Then we made our way out,  got carried away with all the exploring that we suddenly found ourselves walking on terraced olive groves…

And along private backyards bulging with lemon trees

We terminated our walk by marveling at the sight of  the Roya river, the railway tracks and the Alps mountains (some snowcapped) in the background.

 

What a great way to make our heart go beating again – Ahhhh…Italia!

 

– o – o – o – o –

If you wish to see more of Airole, here are suggested reading:

Airole – 30 July 2012

Passing Airole – 23 July 2009

Menton’s Lemon Festival

It was the 80th Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) in Menton so not surprisingly, this year’s Theme was “Around the World in 80 Days: Menton, the secret stopover“.


Sculptures of everything citrus – like this grandfather’s clock at a supermarket entrance  – were on display all around town. ..


On closer look, youI could see that these fruits are secured on wire mess by rubber bands.  Menton used one million rubber bands to create all these sculptures for the three-week festival.

Nearly all restaurants and other business establishments have decorated their facades with everything citrus.


This is the facade of the Lemon Exhibition Grounds showing the icons of travel which I presume was circa 1900s because of the steam train in the middle.

 

…..the world’s most famous sites, a hot air balloon, the face of a clock …

Zooming in for the train’s wheels

The vegetal and lemony hot air balloon!

Menton is the citrus capital of France so  most streets lined up with citrus bearing trees.  They get heavy with fruits  around January…

 

Another sculpture, London’s Big Ben.

The Big Ben up close

And New York’s Grand Lady…in lemons

Everybody cooperated to make the annual festival a success  by putting their own citrus display.

More lemons a-hiding in every corner, too.


A heart of lemons could also look awesome!


Even bookshops take out all their lemon books and publications!

Noticeable are the citrus decorations on every restaurant

 

It’s like there is a lemon display competition going on..

Very welcoming for dining customers

Lemon display for shops, too!

Everywhere you look, it’s raining lemons!

 

 Lemons are widely versatile: they even look good in a tall platter!


So even the fashion trend is Lemon

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

But one day, barely a week after the Festival was over, we saw  these same lemons and oranges being loaded on skips!

And the steam train and the whole facade of the Exhibition Grounds were stripped off its yellow and orange fruities!

And only this citrus vendor remains!

Till next year, the 81st Fete du Citron, see you then!

People-Watching: Menton, Cote d’Azur

I wrote on my last post about the gearbox-smashing incident we had with the van that put H and me a bit rattled, fortunately, it happened in Menton on a beautiful sunny day so we had a chance to de-shock and de-stress by quickly exploring the town and sunbathing on the beach.

Here is my photo story. Enjoy!


Because Menton enjoys one of the longest sunny days in Europe and being one of the most beautiful resorts in the French Riviera, tourists come almost all year round.  You can tell that this lady is a tourist guide by the brightly coloured umbrella she’s holding despite the beautiful blue sky!


Trying to compare the painting with the real!

A trick I have been seeing lately all over!

These type of rat-dogs are not only easier to take around, they also take less maintenance!

The Lemon Festival to which Menton is famous for, was ongoing that time, so street concerts abound in every corner.  Even me, while photographing the dancing audience cannot help but shake with the beat!

When the music being played is one that you used to adore when you were younger, naturally, it brings back happy youthful memories!

In Menton, open-air restaurants like this one line up the sea promenade, something that the doves, eternally in search of food, truly enjoy…

Ahh… family!  Thank goodness for a place like this….

 

That attracts people of all ages!

– even great for discussing business –

~. ~.~.~.~

And here are some sea quotes to ponder – 

“It’s hard for me to put into words why I like the beach so much. Everything about it is renewing for me, almost like therapy…Beach Therapy.”
– Amy Dykens

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

“Why do we love the sea? It is because it has some potent power to make us think things we like to think.” – Robert Henri

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea–whether it is to sail or to watch it–we are going back from whence we came.” – John F. Kennedy

Vallebona, Italia

More than a week ago, we were all geared up,  van jam-packed, ready for the long haul to Hungary when, out of the blue,  while driving  for a practice run, the van’s gear box came crushing down to pieces!  Luckily, the accident happened just few hundred meters to the nearest garage so we were able to drag it there, albeit with great  struggle and mental shock for both H and I.  Good thing that it happened in Menton on a bright sunny day so we had the chance to de-stress and de-shock on the sunny beach – amongst the lemon decorated streets as the Fete du Citron was ongoing – before catching the bus to home.

We have been on the waiting game since then, as the Italian mechanic would report that it is not easy to source the right parts and all that.  So in the meantime, we have been making ourselves busy with house clearing and tidying up in-between visiting lovely villages and towns of the Italian Liguria.

Le vie dei sapori e dei colori” (The routes of flavours and colours) is a booklet that I have been keeping as bible to all our Ligurian itineraries.  It is about the 16 towns and villages of staggering beauty, colours and gastronomy located in the valleys of this beautiful region of Italy where the Mediterranean sea meets the mountains of the Alps.  The beauty of all this is, they are just outside our doorstep with the farthest village not even one hour driving distance!

We have seen ten villages out of the sixteen – Dolceacqua, Apricale, Airole, Ventimiglia, etc.  And on this post, I’d like to share with you the TENTH and the latest, which we visited last Sunday.  It’s the village of Vallebona.

 

VALLEBONA

 

Vallebona is one of the oldest and most typical Ligurian village of 1,327 inhabitants in the province of Imperia.  It takes its name from the fertile valley – Valley Good – where it was founded in the 12th century.

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 This is the entrance of the village, the arch is what is left of the access port   built to defend the town.  On closer look, one can still see the fissures which  defenders used to pour boiling oil over the enemies.

This is the Oratorio della Natività di Maria dedicated to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary,  designed in the Baroque style by the architect Andrea Notari.

 

The village is characterized by long and steep narrow streets, arches and buttresses which were once used for defense.

I have to use the silhouette of H to show the height and width of these caruggi (alleys)

In recent years, the historic centre has been skilfully restored and brought back to its original charm.  The cute narrow stairs on the right are obviously a last-minute but necessary addition!

The ancient fountain on the left seemingly serves as a strong support for a more modern stairs on the other side!

 The natural rock forms part of the walls and ceilings of buildings and local stone is used as stairs and footpaths.

An ancient shop signage is still preserved, for the sale of (explosive) powder used in mining and hunting which was prevalent in the 19th century.

This  meter wide alley has a name:  Vico Monte Bello (Alley to the beautiful mountain)

My first impression of Vallebona was the abundance of Piaggio trucks of all shapes and forms!   Where mules once tread through these ultra narrow and steep alleys, it’s now the glorious ape piaggio doing the work!

 

 

 Vallebona is blessed with a good view of the sea and the hills teeming with  flowers, olives, lemons and other Mediterranean vegetation, so it is only natural that everyone has to have his own terrace!

  The viaduct in the far distance is the expressway that connects the south of France into the Italian motorway.

Before we left Vallebona, we had to try its equally glorious apperitivo!

 

With a glass of negroni above and some bites of dried sausage, chips, peanuts and Italian bread…this is truly the land of  La Dolce Vita!

Theme: Mimosa

 

No other flowering tree gets my heart racing than the billowy bright yellow mimosa!  They bloom towards the end of February, lasting tiIl the first week of March  and I always look forward to coming home in the south of France just to catch the two precious weeks that they are out!  Too bad that they don’t last long but when they do arrive, they are not only lovely to look at, they also exude a heavenly scent, so delicate and fragrant,  a wisp of sweet lemon that you can’t get enough of!  They seem to thrive well along the steep slopes of the Riviera – both Italian and French  – and that is why at such time of the year, this region bursts in yellow to the great delight of passersby who can’t resist taking out their camera to record a lasting memory of the short-lived but breathtakingly refined flowers

With the mimosa’s qualities of strength and robustness and a flower that is fragrant and delicate, it symbolizes a strong woman but with a gentle and kind heart, that is why every International Women’s Day which we celebrate every 8th of March, it is a custom in Italy to give sprigs of the mimosa to every woman they know or encounter each day, like the postwoman Giuletta who delivers the mail or Valentina, the next door neighbour who always say “Buongiorno” with a smile.

And to honor this special day, our Theme this time is about the flower symbol of the woman – the Mimosa.


He is mesmerized by the beauty of the mimosa.  I can’t blame him.


Yellow is psychologically the happiest color in the color spectrum.   So in the south of France where Mimosas are indigenous,  they are used as decorations to please the eye.


And since lemons and oranges are also at their peak season the same time as mimosas, they make a perfect flower arrangement.


This is Italy and they are the largest producer of mimosa.  They harvest about 3,000 tons of the flower each year and they export them all over Europe.


Despite the Recession, the mimosa export business will continue to grow since they are grown locally and, unlike other businesses that relocate to “cheaper-labour countries”, the mimosa will remain 100% Made in Italy.

It has become THE Ambassador of Made in Italy products!

In 2009, Mimosa was declared Color of the Year by the ‘Oscars’ of the color world- Pantone.   According to the color authority, it’s the one universal color that  best sums up the hue that will define our feelings and desires for a fresh new year.


Italians are a very religious people and the mimosa plays a big part of it.


A big bunch of mimosa is a great gift to the missus to honor her being a woman this International Women’s Day.


So for those who haven’t bought their sprigs to give to their female friends, they are being sold in every market or street corner especially today.

Such a nice color to brighten up the world!

 

And to show you how excited I am, I just had to have this shot!

Auguri alle signore! (Best wishes to the ladies!)